USA TODAY Sports
Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland spoke to the media today at the scouting combine, touching on topics like free agency and the upcoming draft.
With 9 picks in draft does it change Combine approach?
"It doesn’t change too much. We brought every single person in the building so we’ve got eyes on every single player at the Combine. We brought 55 personnel and coaches to the Combine so we’ve got a lot of eyes on a lot of different guys. It doesn’t change the process. We’re trying to prioritize who we’re looking at and what we’re looking at. It’s the information gathering process. No firm decisions are made during this time period. We’re just gathering all the information and we’ll start analyzing it as the information comes in."
Draft philosophy…best player available?
"It’s early in the process but that’s obviously the first goal, you’d like to take best player available but it depends on what you do in free agency, it depends on some of your needs and depends on what’s there when you take the pick."
Last couple of years you drafted 1st-round player others might not have taken that high.
"If history repeats itself I don’t really care what the public perception is, I care about what my scouts say and what my eyes are telling me. We have our own evaluations that go into it and sometimes you have a need there and sometimes you have the grade and they have to marry to each other. When they do you have to take the player."
Is this a make or break, or do or die off-season?
"I’d say neither of those. I think it’s very, very important time period for this off-season. We’ve put a lot into getting into this position so we obviously are in this position by design. We plan to use some of our money and plan to obviously draft the best players available if we can and try to address some of the needs and musts we have on our football team."
Re-signing WR Brian Hartline?
"In terms of our free agents we’re going to address every player that’s a free agent. As it relates to anyone in particular I’m not really going to address how our negotiations are going at this point. But it’s important to get the guys that we’re trying to get back, it’s important to get those guys done certainly before the 8th, there’s no doubt about it."
Thoughts on franchise tag and will you use it?
"It’s a resource, certainly. You have to evaluate how negotiations are going with certain particular players but there’s a lot of things that go into the franchise tag, a lot of different opinions, a lot of different aspects of when you use it, when you don’t use it, why you use it. In terms of this year there’s certainly a likelihood that we could use it. But on particularly who, right now we haven’t made that decision yet.
Combine’s importance on final evaluation of players?
"I always say if you’re doing your job you’re making decisions based on what they do while they’ve got pads on. So we try to put a grade on them at the end of December, maybe the end of February, which we just got through meeting on. That doesn’t change when you get the results from here. You just try to analyze what they are. Certainly the higher draft choices you want the ability on the field to marry the ability in shorts and certainly the later draft choices, in my opinion, you’re looking for upside so you’re looking for very good athletes or some of the things like that. So you’re looking for more athletic ability, at least that’s what I’m looking for."
Why haven’t you re-signed any of your own free agents?
"We’re going through a process. I don’t think we had to get them done at the first of January. There’s no date. Right now the date that I have in my head is March 9th, to get those guys done before they get into that period. So we’ve taken on the evaluation of our coaching staff, we’ve been very thorough in that process, finding out what fits. When you have as many of them as we do you can’t just make knee-jerk reactions on getting certain guys signed so we’ve taken a very thorough evaluation and we’ve met on it many times and this is the time period we’re starting to talk to them and try to get some things done."
Learn anything about Philbin you didn’t know during hiring process?
"Not really. Joe and I kind of hit it off from the beginning. He’s very thorough. He doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low. Very highly-organized, got a great thought process involved. All those things I knew going into his first year. It’s more enhanced now that we’ve got better communication and we’ve spent more time together. I think he knows what I’m about and I know a little bit more about what he’s about so it’s been a very good marriage at this point."
Do you have your mainstay at QB in Tannehill?
"As I’ve said before, Ryan’s got 35, 36 games under his belt as a starting quarterback combined from a college and pro career. And you’d normally like to have 35 games under your belt as a graduating senior so I still think there’s a bunch of upside left in Ryan’s potential. I like what I see so far. I love his intangible makeup. I love his athletic skill set. We have a long way to go. He knows that. But he can get a lot better. I’m very confident in that."
Gap between Patriots and all others in AFC East?
"There’s a gap, certainly. They’ve won the division quite a bit, so we’ve got to close that gap. I think it’s a five-game gap right now, wins and losses, so that’s where the gap is. Sp we’ve got to close that gap and we plan to do our best job and put our best foot forward getting that done this off-season. Now whether we completely close the gap, we’ve got to get back on the gap and close the gap on the field. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to talk about it now."
On Hard Knocks.
"We sat and talked about whether we’re going to do it or not. Joe, I think, made the famous statement, ‘I don’t think any games are going to be won by doing it, and I don’t think any games are going to be lost by doing it.’ And I still feel the same way. It was a good experience. Those guys are extremely professional people. Days go by and you don’t really know that they’re there other than the fact that the guy is sitting there with the mic as soon as I open my door in my office. But I enjoyed it. It was good exposure for our franchise. And again, NFL Films and Hard Knocks do an outstanding job."
On potentially using Ryan Tannehill in more of a mobile capacity.
"You’re asking the wrong guy. My title is general manager, not head coach. I know he did some of that in college. He had some long runs. I like his athletic skill set. That’s one of the reasons we drafted him as high as we did. How we use him, that’s going to be up to Mike and Joe."
On how he approaches big-ticket, high-priced free agents.
"You’re always looking for value, to get production. You hope it matches the value for what you’re going to get. Everybody wants a bargain. And in free agency, if you’re going to play in free agency, there’s not a ton of bargains out there, especially if you’re playing at the top of the market. You just have to feel confident that what you’re paying for is what you’re getting. That’s always been a philosophy of mine, that the value of the production and the value of the ability, they match, and that you’re not overpaying for a lesser talented player."
On the perceived lack of difference makers in this year’s draft.
"I think there are some difference makers. In difference makers, I’m sure you’re referring to some of the skill position players. I look at it a little bit differently. I look at difference makers in the offensive line, defensive line, maybe there’s a safety you there. Maybe your vision of a difference maker is not the same vision that I have. I think there’s good depth in the draft. I think in our last meeting, we talked about 250 players that we like a lot. I think there’s some pretty good depth."
On the dynamic between the scouting and coaching staffs.
"I always use the saying that the scouts help bring the information to the bridge, and without the coaches, you can’t cross the bridge. You have to have both involved in this evaluation period. Like I said, we brought our entire coaching staff here. This is the first time as a general manager that I brought every single person. Our building is empty right now. It’s a very critical period for us. I want all eyes on all players. The mental aspect of the scheme fit is important to us. We have our coaches talk football, so they get involved in that regard. I think it’s a very important aspect of things. The final decision, it’s a collective process. Joe and the coordinator and position coach on that particular player, we’re going to sit down and look at the player. If we don’t see eye-to-eye, we’ll sit down and watch the tape together and try to get that process right."
On if there’s conflict between the staffs.
"I’ve never been involved with a lot of friction. We’re all professionals. The scouts, we work in professional football. I expect my scouts and my coaches to be professionals in that regard. We live in a world where we’re paid for an opinion. You’re going to have an opinion and you’re going to have an opinion. They don’t always mesh, they don’t always marry. You like when they do. Quite honestly, you like when they don’t, because there’s debate involved in that, and debate is problem-solving. And the No. 1 thing we’re charged with is problem solving."
If he’s seen the new aptitude test.
"I really don’t know a whole lot about it. They’re not giving us a whole lot of information about it. They’re just going to give us the results and how it’s being tested. I’m sure it’s early and new and we’re going to get into it a little more. [The Wonderlic] has been used quite a bit and I think there’s some concern that people outside the Combine are getting a hold of it, possibly."
How the new CBA, salary cap rollover has impacted his approach to free agency.
"We’ve got good cap space, so I like it. Right now, anyway. It’s been a positive thing for us. What you don’t spend in one year rolls over to the next. It’s good because certain players you’re trying to get done in the current year, you can’t get that person done, so you can use that money in the next year. You don’t want that money to go away. You want to continue to use that process. With the cap not going up the 7 percent, I think teams need all the dollars."
If he envisions using a certain percentage of the cap on his own guys, and a certain percentage on others.
"I haven’t necessarily looked at it from a percentage standpoint. We know the guys that we want back on our team and we know the guys we are potentially go after in the market. We’ll analyze it a little different than that. Right now, the plan is a strong plan to do a little bit of both and we’ll see how it goes from there."
On character issues affecting who the Dolphins go after and keep.
"Character and makeup, I’ve talked a lot about it. I’ve always talked a lot about it. That’s been part of my philosophy since I was in Dallas. I certainly like guys that are highly competitive, that can learn and are dependable. Highly passionate about football. That’s always going to be a part of my process, and Joe certainly wants those guys in the locker room. There’s going to be guys on our football team that make mistakes. We’re aware of that. Moving forward, those decisions that were in the past, those weren’t all just character. There were some other things involved that I’m not going to get into. I’m proud of the team that we’ve assembled. We’ve got a good, strong locker room. It’s youthful. I think that gives you the best opportunity, when you have a young locker room, good chemistry, to continue to grow as a group."
On the important of continuity.
"I think it’s important to bring back key members of it. Again, it’s going to be their choice too, whether they want to come back. It’s a process involved. We’re going to try to bring back the guys that we feel like are necessary to bring back to continue moving in the right direction."
High priced free agent?
"No, we’re just trying to help our football team move in the right direction, I don’t really feel the pressure that it has to be a name guy, if that particular player we think is gonna help our football team move forward and take a big step, and if he has a big name great, if he helps our football team that’s our first and foremost primary reason why we signed the player."
3-day negotiating window.
"I don’t know exactly how it’s gonna change things, I don’t know that there’s gonna be a lot done in that 24 hours of that time period, that’s just a guess, but some of the bulk of what we can get done needs to happen before that time … that three day window it’s obviously going to be competitive because of that openness in negotiating, exactly how it’s gonna change things I’m not exactly sure yet … whatever you give to an agent in the first 24 hours, they’ve got 48 hours left to continue doing their work, it’s a little sketchy."
Reggie Bush’s role.
"Certainly would, you’d love to have his skillset on the football team, Reggie has a unique set of skill sets, he’s been a receiver, a primary running back, I definitely see a role for that type of skill set … we’ll just have to see how things go, we’ve got a few more days of talking to our own guys and we’ll see how things go."
"We’ve talked with Jake, we’ve talked with his representative as well, we’ve made our desire to have him back on this football team known, but that’s a tricky one as I said at the senior bowl, there’s a lot of things that you normally don’t have in that particular case, some of the details I don’t want to get into, but it’s just a complicated negotiation … I’d love to have him back, he’s been a pillar for our football team since the day he stepped on campus … injury history, I don’t want to say it’s an issue, it’s something we look at, obviously we have more intimate knowledge of his health than anybody else, so it’s something we’re aware of."
"It goes back to what’s being played in college, and that’s a position that’s not primarily playing a traditional, on the line of scrimmage, hand in the dirt, Y tight end as we would call it, you’ve got a lot of detached receiver types that fit a TE body type, and then when you play a system that uses a traditional tight end, you’re sometimes trying to project that player, and the projection business is difficult, but you don’t have to project the aspect of him being in the slot and running down the middle of the field … you just have to make sure that that player that you’re drafting marries to your scheme."
"I think there’s several players that are our current free agents that would be an option for the tag, I have not ruled out Sean as being an option there, but we’ve got several more days left before we have to make that decision, we have a pretty good idea where we’re going with it, but things could change daily, hourly, continuity at the CB position is always something you’re looking for, and certainly Sean’s an option, and if we do use the tag, it’s for continuity reasons."
"It’s very important to have randy back if we can get it done, I’m not really worried about where we’re playing Odrick, the fact of the matter is we have a very good defensive line and keeping that intact is a focus of mine, it’s a strength, to build a strength is a focus of mine, I don’t want to let that strength become just average, I like where it’s at and keeping it as a mainstay is important to me."
"There’s a lot of reasons why you want Matt back on the football team, Matt’s been an outstanding teammate, a good mentor for Ryan, it was excellent when Chad and him were in the room last year, so there’s a lot of things of why you would want him back on the football team … like every free agent we’ve talked about, there’s a process in place, they’re all great character guys, and it’s a business decision, we have some tough decisions to make, I wish I could have them all back, I’m gonna be disappointed and maybe possibly one of those guys will be disappointed when it doesn’t get done."
Leverage with Sean Smith.
"We have two guys that were injured, one didn’t finish the season and one we ended up playing, Dimitri, but Sean has started almost every single game he’s been in since 2008, so having that continuity back with Sean is important, but we’ll have to see how that thing goes … I guess optimistic, we had a meeting the other day and I left optimistic, but we still have a long way to go."